You probably don’t need to be told that friendship dynamics tend to shift once you enter adulthood. Friendship may have come easily before you hit adulthood- when you were on the same schedule and going through the same big life events at the same time as everyone else around you. Then, you start college and schedules are more fluid, people have more autonomy over how they spend their time and who they spend it with, and you notice that maintaining friendships takes a little bit more effort than it has in the past. Fast forward a few years and you’re now in the thick of engagement, wedding, and baby season, and you find yourself surprised at just how challenging it can be to start and maintain friendships. 

What Happens to Friendships When You Enter Motherhood?

Entering motherhood shakes you. To your very core. I mean that quite literally. There isn’t a part of you or your life that remains untouched once you enter motherhood. And while so many of these changes are beautiful and rewarding, there are many that are just plain hard: your sleep is interrupted for a while, your daily routine turns into daily survival, you’ve got to pare down your 40 minute “everything shower” to a 4 minute barely-anything shower (three minutes of which your baby is crying or your toddler is playing peek-a-boo with the shower curtain), and your spontaneous happy hours or nights out with friends have all but dried up.

Your life as you know it has changed, and you find that it’s a lot harder to stay connected to people outside your home than it was before having children. The irony is that you may want to be connected to people more than ever in this season, but you face some very real hurdles (And let’s be real, who has the energy to be gliding over hurdles when you’re in the trenches of motherhood?) in order to connect with friends.

This point of this, though, isn’t to just lament about how hard it is to maintain friendships at the beginning and throughout motherhood (If you’re a mom, you already know this); it’s to consider ways that we can navigate these challenging dynamics and foster friendships in this season of motherhood and in the seasons of motherhood to come.

Hear insight about friendship during motherhood directly from Dr. Colleen Reichmann in the following video:

6 Strategies for Nurturing Friendships Through the Seasons of Motherhood

1. Meet people where they are at

About one month after having my son, one of my best friends told me she was going to come over one night so I could shower and sleep while she hung out with my baby. She came over around dinner time and was there to help, talk, and lighten the load for the night. At one point, I came out after sleeping for a few hours to relieve her, and she told me to go back to sleep. She didn’t leave until after 2am.

She entered my world entirely; she met me right where I was – borderline delirious from lack of sleep, in need of social connection, but with zero mental or emotional bandwidth to even respond to text messages half the time. Instead of assuming I needed space and retreating, she just stepped into my world, and it was exactly what I needed (and she continues to do this – she’s golden, I’m not kidding).

All of that to say, sometimes you might have to enter someone else’s world in order to maintain that friendship. If you know someone who is (or is going to be) a new mom, or a mom again, think of a way to show up for them. Even texts that let them know you are thinking about them (without the expectation for them to respond within a certain timeframe) present an opportunity for connection. Find (or foster, if you already have them) friendships where you are able and willing to meet –and pour into– each other in whatever season you’re in.

2. Accept a shift in – or resolution of – some friendships.

The hard reality is that a shift in some of your friendships is likely to happen. Maybe it’s temporary, and maybe it isn’t, but you get to determine how you want to respond to these shifts. You have the ability to either lean in or tap out, and for friendships that you care deeply about, I urge you to lean in. Even if you do, though, your friendship will still feel different (for a while, at least), because it is different: Friday nights out become Saturday morning playdates, all day shopping trips turn into quick coffee dates between baby’s feeding sessions, and you now have to plan weeks in advance what used to be spontaneous dinner dates. But all of these connections — different as they may be — can still be deep and meaningful.

You will probably have friends who are not as understanding or accommodating of the shifts in your schedule and priorities. The unfortunate reality is that some friendships will fizzle out when you’re in the thick of motherhood. And this is okay – while some friendships last for a lifetime, some friendships last only for a season. When we find ourselves in a friendship that seems to be running its course, this doesn’t have to cause animosity or resentment. A respectful recognition that you’re at different places in your lives, but that you want the best for each other, can be healthy if the friendship is no longer serving you.

3. Communicate Needs

When you are in a hard or trying season — in motherhood or not — that has you feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically spread thin, your communication with other people may change. In these situations, some people look outward for support, connection, and belonging, and others draw inward in order to deal with whatever they have going on. Those of us (this is me!) who draw inward often still need support, but asking for it can be low on the list of things you are feeling equipped to do.

I can say, though, that if you can muster up the ability to reach out to ask for help or offer help if you notice another friend in this position, you will almost never be sorry you did (in my own experience). Whether you need a listening ear, help with the littles, or simply someone to share some coffee with, let your friends know how they can support you during this time. Similarly, be receptive to your friends’ needs and willing to reciprocate support when you have the capacity. This can be a way to connect in a season where it feels nearly impossible to keep up with friendships.

4. Give friends grace

You may know what it’s like to make plans and then have to cancel them last minute because you have a sick kid, your babysitter cancels, or you get to the end of the day and realize you do not have the bandwidth to do anything outside of the house that evening. Or maybe you know what it’s like to text another mom friend and not hear back for a while (or at all).

When plans are canceled, texts go unanswered, and shared TikToks go unwatched, start by giving your friend a little bit of grace. Surely, we have all been the one who has canceled plans or failed to return texts. One of the pillars of extending grace to others is working to not take things personally. An unanswered text or a canceled plan is rarely personal; making it personal can aid in building resentment and putting distance between you and someone you’re trying to stay connected to. And if you are still wondering if a canceled plan or decrease in communication is personal, consider bringing this up kindly and tactfully. You may find that doing so gives your friend the forum to share that things have been really challenging, and before you know it, you’re empathizing with your friend instead of pulling away.

5. Put yourself out there

 Fostering friendships in motherhood is hard, and it is worth it. If you don’t have a community that holds you close and lifts you up throughout each part of the parenting journey, be intentional about interacting with other moms when you have the opportunity – get phone numbers, set up playdates or coffee dates, and follow through when you make plans.

If putting yourself out there sounds intimidating, just remember that other people are likely feeling some of the same nerves about it that you are; taking the initiative to initiate communication can help break through any initial awkwardness that comes with exchanging numbers and the guesswork around if, how, and when you should set up a get together.

I’ve heard so many moms say that, while they’re willing to put themselves out there, they don’t know how to meet other moms who are in similar seasons on motherhood. Meeting and forming connections with other moms can be tough; you could start by going to mommy & me classes or events, being open to talking to other moms at the playground, a local park, the library, or a church. If trying to forge friendships with people in person isn’t possible or feels too daunting right now, you can try joining a Facebook group for moms in your area or downloading the Peanut App (it’s free!) to try to connect with other moms virtually before you are face-to-face with them.

I urge you to lead with your desire for community over your fear of rejection because the rewards you can reap are worth it. 

6. Make time

 If you have friendships hanging in the balance, or new ones that are waiting to form, make time to call, FaceTime, but more importantly, make time to meet up with and without kids. Carving out time can feel impossible when you feel like you don’t have free or idle time anymore, but it is important to try to make time for the friend(s) you already have or to try to make connections with new people if you want to build up your community. You may not be able to make time every week, but start with what is feasible for you in this season: even if it isn’t convenient, even if it is for 30 minutes, even if it is just dropping off a quick coffee at your friend’s house, making time to show that you are invested in your friends goes a long way when building and deepening bonds. 

Motherhood and Friendship: We Aren’t Meant to Walk Alone

Motherhood is hard. We’re not meant to do it alone. Our American culture commends hyper-independence, attributes it to being well-adjusted, well-prepared, strong, “Super Mom,” and I think this has contributed to the loneliness many of us feel in motherhood. We are told we are supposed to be able to do it all, and we are supposed to be able to do it with 10 other plates spinning at the same time (and at the same speed). Ultimately, this is not where we thrive – this leaves us exhausted, too tired to do much of anything let alone form new friendships. So, maybe our loneliness in motherhood epidemic starts with a paradigm shift, one that recognizes that we can be independent people who still need each other for support and connection. And this is where we thrive: in community, together.

By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC

All images via Unsplash

How Can Wildflower Therapy in Philadelphia, PA Help You?

If you’re looking for someone to come alongside you to help you unpack and approach the the complex set of emotions you may experience about friendship during motherhoodour therapists in Pennsylvania are honored to help!  In fact, you can get to know a little bit more about them here and book a free consultation here.

Other Mental Health Services Provided by Wildflower Therapy, Philadelphia, PA

Life is a unique and sometimes messy journey for each of us; we all have our own individual battles to fight. Our therapists know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any of life’s challenges and because of that, we offer many unique perspectives and approaches to help meet you where you are with our Philadelphia, PA Therapy services.

We offer services for eating disorder therapy, services for anxiety, and depression, and have practitioners who specialize in perinatal mental health maternal mental healththerapy for college students and athletes. As well as LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy. As you can see, we have something to offer just about anyone in our Philadelphia, PA office. Reaching out is often the most difficult step you can take to improve your mental health. We look forward to partnering with you on this journey!